Knitted blankets (Charity Knitting)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Great Tea Cosy Competition 1996

In 1996 the Knitting & Stitching Show held a Great Tea Cosy Competition. The then members of the Cambridgeshire Branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild decided to make a joint entry in the Free Form Fun, Theme for the Nineties: Water category. 

All contributors made parts of the Tea Cosy using a variety of yarns and different knitting and crochet techniques. 

The Tea Cosy was made for a teapot to sit inside on the base, with the bivalve shell closing with a button and loop fastening over the teapot. One side of the closed Tea Cosy shows clean wholesome water, with shades of blue and other suitable colours, abundant aquatic life and a beautiful reclining mermaid. 

Clean water side of finished Tea Cosy

The other side shows polluted water, with an abandoned net, a leaking oil drum and the skeletons of fish.

Polluted water side of finished Tea Cosy

The base is double sided. Lengths of I-cord or French knitting in different shades of blue and green were made by various techniques depending on the maker. These were wound into double spirals and stitched to form two oval shapes each 25cm/10 inches by 22.5cm/8¾ inches at their widest points. The ovals were then sewn together with a piece of stout card between them for strength and stability. 

Outer base

Inner base

The bivalve shell was made from tubes of stocking stitch in appropriate colours for clean water and polluted water. The tubes had flat cast on bases and curved tops, and were made in various lengths so that when stuffed and stitched together two clam-shell shapes were formed. Each completed shell side was wide enough along the bottom to fit onto the oval base. The maximum height was 23cm/9 inches.

After assembly the outsides of the bivalve shell shapes were decorated with items made separately and attached individually.

The polluted water side has a black net created from thick crochet cotton worked as crochet Solomon’s knots. Added as the net was worked are back shiny beads and black sequins to emphasise the pollution, and shells to symbolise dead or dying sea-life. Trapped in the net is a crochet fish skeleton. Another crochet fish skeleton lies at the base of the shell.

A bright orange hand knitted oil drum is shown as being corroded, the knitted curlicue in black and silver metallic yarn and others knitted and crocheted in black and orange yarns representing the pollution spilling into the sea. More knitted and crocheted curlicues in dull colours, one with black and glow-in-the-dark beads, represent the dying seaweed. Other pollutants include a wheel constructed with cotton thread over a wooden ring in the manner of a Dorset button but with minimal centre filling, and a black shiny crochet “mine”. 

The clean water side is full of life! The seaweed, again represented by knitted curlicues, this time in a lush green. Crochet fish and starfish flit around the clam-shell shape and pearls add to the decoration and rejoicing. To celebrate the good fortune is a mermaid.

The body of the mermaid is made from stuffed nylon hosiery suitably shaped by stitching. The facial features are embroidered on. She wears a necklace of shells and a shawl of seaweed made from threads of bright green textured yarn. In her right hand she holds a knitted mirror. A strip of crochet shell stitch forms the scales covering her lower body, each shell in a different suitably coloured textured yarn, and this strip spiralled round the body from waist to tail fins. Leaf shaped sequins were later added. Her shaped tail fins have a crochet covering. Her hair comprises strands of white, blue and green textured, metallic and pearlised yarns. The overall length of the mermaid is 30cm/12 inches.

The Tea Cosy as a work in progress

The fastening button is a knitted ball sewn at the top of the longest clam-shell tube on the clean water side of the Tea Cosy with an I‑cord loop on the corresponding clam-shell tube on the polluted water side.

The mermaid and the ball and loop fastening

When submitted to the Knitting and Stitching Show, in spite of instructions that the teapot should fit inside the Tea Cosy on the base, this did not prevent the organisers from putting the Tea Cosy over the teapot and thus exhibiting it upside down. The tresses of the mermaid tumbled down onto the exhibit on the shelf below until a word in an ear of someone at the Show from Pam Herron managed to rectify the error. Pam was also upset because only her name was on the exhibition notice although the names of all the makers had been submitted and the name of where Pam lived was spelt incorrectly.

The then Cambridgeshire Branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild’s
Tea Cosy on display (upside down) at the 1996 Knitting and Stitching Show.
The poor quality of this picture is the result of the effects of the lighting.

The contributors to the Tea Cosy were Doris Brown, Avril Heron, Pam Herron (Branch Co-ordinator), Pauline Hornsby, Elza Sayer, Julia Smith and Joyce Vidal.

Although the Tea Cosy didn't win any prizes, it would be a shame to see it lost in the depths of time. If anyone reading this blog knows of a museum or anywhere else it could be donated, displayed or looked after please leave a comment. Thank you. 


  1. WOW...this is awesome, a true work of art. I can't believe you all didn't win something. It tells a powerful and important story, and is a useable cozy. Sorry for the troubles of them doing it upside down, wrong location and lack of all of the names. Sounds like they weren't very organized or with the program. Must give some thought where something like this could be properly displayed.

    1. Thank you, Sandy. A local museum has offered to put the cosy on display while a permanent home is found for it.


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